Plans to turn former town pub into Islamic centre submitted
Plans to turn a well-known former Newmarket pub into an Islamic community centre have been submitted to the council.
The Five Bells pub in St Mary's Square was bought by the Newmmarket Islamic Cultural Centre in October 2018, and a change of use application has now been submitted to West Suffolk Council.
Under the plans, the Grade II-listed building would be converted into an Islamic centre, with residential accomodation on the upper floors to provide a caretaker's flat.
According to the application, the premises would operate Mondays to Sundays, 9am to 11pm, and prayers would be five times per day.
One of the prayer sessions would be pre-dawn, and take place outside the principle opening hours.
The hall would accommodate 45 worshippers and no singing or amplified music would take place on the premises.
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The application also states that Newmarket's Islamic community, a group of 200 families who have been in the town for about 20 years, have no place to study or meet and have been searching for a venue for five years.
Overall, neighbours have responded positively to the plans and have welcomed the application.
Commenting on the plans, Reverend Max Drinkwater, of St Mary's Church in the town, said: "I believe this will provide a much needed facility for the whole community, as well as a place of welcome and hospitality for a significant minority group within the town, and it will preserve a valued local building for future generations.
"As a local resident, I frequently pass the site and enjoy seeing it well used and appreciated.
"The Five Bells has a long history in the town, and a change of use will only preserve and continue that heritage."
The Jockey Club said it had no objection but asked that the construction team be mindful that hundreds of racehorses use the nearby town horsewalk each morning during any works which take place.
Suffolk County Council recommended that secure cycle storage be included to "ensure that sufficient space for the on site parking of cycles is provided and maintained".
A decision on the application is expected to be made before the end of July.
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